Kendrick Lamar: “Mother I Sober” [ft. Beth Gibbons] Track Review

Kendrick Lamar has never been shy about chronicling the environment in which he grew up. Through each of his releases, he has done his best to paint scenes from his childhood and adolescence, conveying how the chaos of growing up in Compton influenced every decision he has made. made. In songs like “Hood Politics,” “Fear.” and “The Art of Peer Pressure,” Lamar combined this personal storytelling with the disposition of a carnival barker, yelling to make sure every moment of his personal story was heard.

That brash intensity, with which Lamar often raps, is missing from “Mother I Sober.” The penultimate track of mr morale and the great climbers and the latest installment of his TDE career lacks the fury present on the rest of the record. Instead, Lamar inserts a quiet whisper, using this pitch to unpack a mountain of generational trauma in nearly seven minutes. “My mother’s mother followed me for years in her afterlife / Staring at me in the back of some buses, I wake up at night,” Lamar murmurs over a piano playing a simple but somber progression. He can’t process the pain of his family’s history on his own, so he exposes it all, hoping someone else will hold on to his whispers. And just as he stops rapping, the voice of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons wafts in: “I wish I was somebody/Anyone but me,” she sings tenderly, a neat encapsulation of how Lamar can really feel.

As the string compositions kick into action and the background vocals build in intensity, Lamar’s voice remains downtrodden, creating a contrast through the melancholic register that lingers with painful memories. He raps about his mother’s sexual assault, the lingering image of her bruised face, the violent retribution carried out by his uncle that spawned his own traumas: “To this day I can’t look her in the eye, the pain is wearing off.” seizing her/Blame myself, you never felt guilty until you felt her sober.” The constant threat of family violence, the oscillations between shame and pride in being sober, and on top of all this, the inability to escape the collective trauma that black Americans hold within themselves: it’s all on display. It’s a window into the source of Lamar’s insecurities and failings, both in his relationships and his self-esteem. He is not asking to be heard; it’s just that you’re only going to understand if you care to pay attention.

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In the end, Lamar’s decibel level finally rises, rising as he and the project reach an emotional climax. “This is transformation,” he yells, as his journey through his family’s trauma comes to a natural end for him. After Gibbons’ voice fades out for the last time, two voices appear: Lamar’s partner, Whitney Alford, and her daughter. “You broke a generational curse,” Alford says, followed by his daughter thanking them both. In one quick moment, Lamar shows what the interruption of the cycle that shaped him has finally led to, the biggest victory for the rapper to date.

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